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Chaos Awaken From Dead, Shock Chrome in Quarterfinals
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Chaos Awaken to Stun No. 2 Seed Chrome in Quarterfinals

Chaos 19, Chrome 14

The first playoff game of the PLL’s Championship Series was a rematch from the round robin games. In what feels like a month ago, Chaos and Chrome faced off against each other on July 25th, just about a week and a half before this one took place. That game saw the Chrome shock the PLL world as last year’s lowest ranking team beat 2019’s regular season champs in commanding fashion. In the following games, the Chaos would go on to create a lot more question marks than answers en route to an 0-4 record in pool play. By contrast, the Chrome would win their way to the No. 2 seed in the tournament behind a completely revamped defense and an offense that had really figured out how to play together consistently.

This second meeting was a classic example of why you play a game instead of just looking at what’s on paper.

In terms of the actual game flow, it actually started as a bit of a back and forth for awhile, before Dhane Smith scored off a Kevin Buchanan pass just over four minutes in. From that point on, the scoring never stopped. After building a 2-0 lead, the Chrome finally got on the board and the teams continued to essentially trade goals until halfway through the second quarter when the Chaos really blew things open. Over a stretch of just under five minutes, the Chaos saw goals from Smith, Josh Byrne, Curtis Dickson, and  a 2-pointer from Jake Frocarro. In that entire stretch, the Chrome only had a fast break goal from Jordan Wolf off a feed from Sam Duggan coming down the field. In total, the Chrome settled offense was scoreless for nearly an entire quarter’s worth of game clock time.

Despite the lead built by the Chaos going into halftime, the Chrome came out unusually rushed on offense. They weren’t taking unnecessary risks defensively and the Chaos were earning all of their points. When the Chrome was struggling to score, Chaos looked for quick strikes at the start of the third quarter rather than settling in and identifying matchups like they typically did through round robin play. With the Chaos offense firmly in a groove, every possession they had was spelling danger for the Chrome.

As the third quarter wore on, this rushed play only became exaggerated, even though the deficit hadn’t grown by much. The halftime score of 12-6 had grown to 16-8, including yet another Frocarro 2-pointer.

When the fourth quarter came, the Chrome had no option but to try and score as much as possible while Chaos milked the clock. This is one area where Chaos deserves some unsung credit. The way they slow walked their clears, drew out substitutions, and avoided taking too many chances is why Chrome was not able to stage a big comeback. Chrome won the quarter 6-3, but that was nowhere near enough to give the club what it would take to move on in the postseason. Chaos finally ending this game with high-scoring 19-14 win over the No. 2 seed was definitely a shock for the previously 0-4 team.

Man of the Match

Choosing the best player is a little difficult considering the option. It came down to Blaze Riorden or Dhane Smith. Following the surprise decision by Chaos head coach Andy Towers to bench Connor Fields for the *entire* game, Chaos had a void to fill on offense. Miles Thompson roamed the middle of the field near the crease, but the key to the newly explosive offense was Dhane Smith. NLL fans would recognize everything Dhane was doing in this game, and it really ran more like a box lacrosse offense, with nearly everything happening above GLE. Dhane ran the righties, Miles was inside, Josh Byrne ran the lefties, and the combo of Jake Frocarro and Sergio Salcido kept the pressure by dodging out of the midfield all game. But it was all keying off of Dhane. His two-man games with Curtis Dickson, feeds to a hungry Thompson, or swings over to Byrne were creating looks all game long that Chrome had no answers for. This offense was truly operating at a different speed.

As good as Dhane was, the nod has to go to Blaze Riorden. Riorden’s save totals in the round robin games were quite honestly due to some struggles on defense and it was no secret. Teams were able to unload shot after shot, but he kept standing tall. While Chrome did take some “easy” shots, he really was making some incredible saves. Chrome can make a habit about taking high percentage shots and are not big proponents of deep ones or frequent twos unless it is really wide open. Riorden was able to save some crease dives, one-on-one finishes, and was moving fluidly pipe-to-pipe. That said, his incredible saves did not add up to the goal differential here. The reason why he gets the Man of the Match is because Chrome was dominant in face-offs. Especially early on. It looked like Chaos might never win a draw. If even a handful of Riorden’s saves were goals instead, those turn into make it, take it opportunities for Chrome to keep pace or take the lead. It’s an easy point multiplier and Riorden put the clamps to it.

Achilles’ Heel

The biggest concern for this team is going to be defense. I’m a big proponent of a great face-off squad can cover up a bad defense. The other thing that can do that is a good goalie. The Chaos only have one of those. Without any confidence of getting regular face-offs, their defense is going to be facing added pressure.

This group is also not the Chaos 2-bomb squad of 2019. They are regularly showing some pretty big lapses, which is why Riorden has been facing so many shots game in and game out. Even though he finished just under 50 percent on the day, he still made a dozen saves, which is a low day for him. Chaos still gave up 14 points to Chrome, which in most games will take things down to the wire. The offense putting up 19 points did the real heavy lifting, but based on their previous scores could be hard to maintain.

Big Stats Guys

  • Josh Byrne (Chaos) 4G, 3A
  • Dhane Smith (Chaos) 3G, 3A
  • Jake Frocarro (Chaos) 1G, 2 2G, 1A, 2CT
  • Matt Rees (Chaos) 2CT, 4GB
  • Jordan Wolf (Chrome) 3G, 1A
  • Jesse King (Chrome) 3G, 1A
  • Justin Guterding (Chrome) 2G, 2A
  • Jordan McIntosh (Chrome) 2G, 1CT, 3GB
  • Connor Farrell (Chrome) 24/31, 13GB, 1A

Thursday’s Game

8 p.m. ET vs. No. 3 Archers on NBC Gold

Chaos moves on to play the winner of the Archers vs. Atlas, which was played as the last game of the night. Archers came out on top, which could prove to be a terrible matchup for Chaos, or a wildly great matchup. It kind of depends on which Chaos shows up. These teams did not see each other in round robin play, which is going to make things fun to watch this time around. Comparisons to last year are just not valid any more.

I’m not sure Chaos is unique in this, but it may not have an answer for Grant Ament. The best hope at containing him is to play very disciplined defense, which is why Whipsnakes were able to win that game. Chaos do have a great chance to put up some points on Archers, though. The club’s best chance is to lean hard into this box-style offense and really play physical, forcing their two-man games to create inside looks of the pick and roll. Midfield opportunities are not going to be as frequent as they were against Chrome as Scott Ratliff is a much better matchup with Sergio Salcido or Jake Frocarro. While both teams can certainly score in transition, this game will come down to settled offense. The squad who is able to dictate the pace by running the offense they want to run will win.